Friday, May 29, 2020

America Is Opening. It Should Never Have Closed

Jeffrey A. Tucker

I wanted to celebrate the opening day of breweries in Connecticut. But it was hardly that. Open means freedom of association and commerce. We are nowhere near that point.

You had to have reservations for a particular time slot, because they are only allowed a fractional capacity. You can only stay an hour and a half. Beer can only be sold in plastic cups and servers can’t touch the thing after you have touched it. You must bus your own table. You have to sit outside.

The mask mandate remains as confusing as ever: you have to put them on when you walk up the ramp to the beer garden but then you can take them off, unless you are the server in which case you have to scream your menu items through a cotton fabric and it comes out like a big muffle anyway. Health theater.

All of this is mandated by the government, as part of the slow-go opening, as if the politicians passing these mandates have any clue about risk, the power to control and direct a virus with precision, or any knowledge of this virus or viruses in general.

It’s all a crazy kabuki dance that everyone is going through, businesses and customers alike, even though it should be completely obvious to one and all by now that for the demographic of your typical brewery patron, this is hardly a disease at all.

We know vastly more about COVID-19 than we did early on, and the more we know the more preposterous is the entire lockdown, which is probably why the media-fueled fear mongering is rising and not falling during the opening. (To be sure, even if COVID-19 had turned out to be the bubonic plague, I still reject the idea that there is any excuse to violate human rights.)

Back to my brewery trip. My sense of dread about this outing quickly turned to happiness. There was a food truck. They were serving burgers. On the way in, I ordered one for me and each of my friends. They were delivered to the porch where we were seated. It tasted like the greatest meal I had in my life. It was astonishing. The food truck people were so incredibly happy to be selling, serving, making money, making people satisfied. Their typical tips this day were 50%. Rightly so!

It was the same at the brewery. Yes, the owner and servers were wearing masks, as mandated by the government. Still, you could almost see the smiles through them. They were practically yelling with delight to be back working, back in business, back serving the public. They were all hopping around like rabbits, even though the place was forcibly doing a fraction of its normal business. It was like two-plus months of pent-up energy pouring out all at once.

It was immediately obvious to me that these people have a vocation. They have dreams. They are meant to do this. It is a deep passion that burns within. They were wickedly and cruelly stopped from doing what they set out to do and robbed of two months of profits and two months of happiness in serving others. More importantly, their dreams of a secure legal environment to do business were crushed.

Finally with the opening, it was back – in a very truncated form but back nonetheless. You could just feel the energy and joy on the porch. It was a reminder to me that great entrepreneurs at every level of society possess a passion akin to great intellectuals, priests, or scientists. They believe that they are doing what they were born to do.

This country was founded to allow them to make their dreams come true. How and why we came to the place in which they were shut down coast to coast is a scandal for the ages.

Still, what I sensed here was a desire to move on. Don’t look back. Don’t seek justice. Don’t kvetch about whatever the hell just happened in the spring of 2020. Let’s just get on with business. Now.

A worry has haunted me during this lockdown concerning capital formation in the future. Why would anyone invest in anything if government can just shut it down on any pretext? Viruses, even new ones, even deadly ones, will always be with us, so does this mean that lockdowns and the pillaging of enterprises will be with us too? In that case, we face a very grim future.

But being out and about curbs my pessimism. The opening is taking place not because of government or the howling media; it is happening despite their objections and due only to massive public pressure. Sure, the polls are ambiguous; they always are on controversial topics.

What matters is the underlying passion for freedom that has been shown by the commercial community and average people, including the protestors in every town in America. People have been betrayed by their leaders; the passion to make matters right is boiling up all over the country. You see it in every Twitter feed of every governor. You detect it in conversations. You see it on the beaches, which are blessedly full. America is so over this.

What of capital formation in the future? It will undoubtedly be harmed. However: the passion and energy of the business community will not be so easily discouraged. It can overcome the threats, the bureaucrats, the political cowardice that led to lockdown, and even the legal ambiguity of the executive orders that brought it about.

The same passion will now seek absolute assurances that nothing like this will ever happen in our lifetime. There will be curbs on the powers that made this possible. They will be written in stone. Mixing the metaphor, they will hang over the political class like the Sword of Damocles. Changes in law can only go so far; the public must demand that their governments stop this. And if the public demands absolute assurances, and kicks out of office anyone who fails to promise “never again,” there is no reason for American entrepreneurs to be worried. The worst-possible thing has happened, and yet most have survived. Those who haven’t will find other ways forward.

American business owners and those who work to service the public via commerce cannot and will not let their dreams be stolen by a pathetic political class and a savagely ignorant media apparatus that understands not the first thing either about viruses or commerce, and cares nothing for people’s rights. This country is about realizing material and spiritual dreams. That means freedom as a first principle – a principle that can never be thrown away no matter the excuse of the moment.



Now, Norway's Health Chief Just Torpedoed the Case for COVID Lockdowns

Was the coronavirus real? Yes. Did some overreact to it? It appears so. I was one of them, but the past ten days have been a deluge of news pretty much undercutting the need for panic. First, most of the country was not hit that hard. New Jersey, New York, parts of New England, and some areas of the West Coast were heavy hit. The rest of the country was not nearly as badly ravaged. New York City is the mecca for the US-based outbreak, but most of the deaths appear to be concentrated in an area we all know would be a problem: nursing homes. And New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo forced these facilities to admit COVID-positive patients. Of course, it spread like a brushfire in there.

I supported the lockdowns to curb the spread and prevent the hospitals from being overrun. Fine—but the goalposts were moved by liberals. Also, we’ve flattened the curve, the hospitals are stable, and it’s time to re-open. Yet, in Norway, their health chief now says that maybe a lockdown wasn’t necessary at all—that the rate of infection was not accurately gauged. In all, she declared that Norway could have handled the infection without a quarantine. The Local Norway, the nation’s English-speaking news outlet, reported on this:

Camille Stoltenberg, the agency's Director General, told state broadcaster NRK that the agency's analysis now suggested less restrictive measures would have been sufficient.

"Our assessment that we could possibly have achieved the same effects and avoided some of the unfortunate impacts by not locking down, but by instead keeping open but with infection control measures," she said.

The institute reported at the start of this month that the reproduction number had already fallen to as low as 1.1 even before the lockdown was announced on March 12.

This suggests that it would not have required heavy-handed measures such as school closures to bring it below 1 and so push the number of infected people in the country into a gradual decline.

"The scientific backing was not good enough," Stoltenberg said of the decision to close down schools and kindergartens, a policy her agency had not recommend even at the time it was instituted in March.

Well, that’s a gut punch, huh? Also, the “R naught” number which tracks how contagiousness of a virus was whittled down to 1.1. It was reported as closer to three, making it far greater more infectious than the seasonal flu.

North Carolina now has slashed its COVID death toll drastically. The CDC totally reevaluated the virus and how it spread on surfaces. Testing has increased dramatically, and positive results have never been lower. Also, in the UK, the vaccine tests have run into an issue: there aren’t enough infected people. The virus is dissipating at such a rate that the chances for a successful test hover around 50/50. That is a good problem, however. Also, the mortality rate has also been clarified to show that it's not as lethal as originally reported.



Pew Research Shows Republican Run Districts Controlled Virus Way Better

What was Pew Research thinking to trot this piece out about the differences between GOP and Democratic-controlled counties impacted by the coronavirus? Was this a way to take a swipe at the GOP? Was it to pour more gasoline on the fake news story about COVID hot spots being impacting rural areas? I don’t know, but it did succeed in pointing out that viral outbreaks spread like a brushfire in densely packed population centers, like cities, whereas the spread slows down in rural areas where people are more spaced out.

Sorry, I know you know this, but what the hell is going on here? The hook for liberal readers appears to be the fact that COVID deaths aren’t dropping as quickly in red counties, which weren’t hit nearly as bad as New York City or the Acela Corridor, so again—what is this? (via Pew):

Of the 44 hardest-hit congressional districts – the top 10% in terms of deaths – 41 are represented by Democrats, while three are represented by Republicans. These include the New York-area districts, as well as those in the Boston, Detroit and New Orleans metropolitan areas. The average death toll in each of these hardest-hit districts was 1,122 as of May 20.

The next 100 hardest-hit districts, which represent the remainder of the top third of districts, with an average of 270 deaths, also are disproportionately represented by Democrats: 75 are represented by Democrats, 25 by Republicans.

About two-thirds (68%) of the 44 least affected districts – the bottom 10%, with an average 13 deaths in each district – are represented by Republicans in Congress.

While the current death rates remain highest in districts controlled by Democrats, the trend in coronavirus fatalities over time has been decreasing in Democratic districts steadily since mid-April. In contrast, Republican-controlled districts have not seen the same declines in the trend over time.

Yeah, it’s why that study about how elderly deaths could impact Trump’s 2020 re-election was equally absurd, just red meat for Trump-deranged liberals to distract them from the notion that their areas are infested with COVID. This was partially due to their leaders sitting on their hands and doing stuff like forcing nursing homes to admit COVID-positive patients, looking at you Bill de Blasio and Andrew Cuomo. The latter’s grim reaper policy is bound to boomerang on him, as he’s tried to deep-six the order:

Yet, let’s bring it over to Ed, our great friend from Hot Air, who took a blowtorch to this whole…article. Professor Morrissey has entered the chat:

The obvious reason why GOP-controlled districts have a shallower decline in death rates is because they had a much shallower incline. The peak in these districts was just one-third of the peak in Democrat districts, which still have more than twice the rate of deaths at this time. This is so obvious that it speaks to a blinding bias on the part of Pew Research that they couldn’t see it for themselves before publishing it — and then promoting this hot take.

Put it this way: what impact does a House member have on policy and governance specific to his/her district? None at all, which is why this analysis is entirely useless. This is correlation without causation, a very common statistical fallacy that one would ding students for creating in an undergrad paper.

To have this appear in a Pew Research publication suggests another form of causation — political bias. It undermines Pew’s credibility and calls into question all of their work in this political environment, if for no other reason the sheer idiocy involved in making that bias sooooooo obvious.




"A dereliction of our duty as elected officials": House Republicans sue Speaker Nancy Pelosi in bid to stop unconstitutional proxy voting (Fox News)

Justice Department closes insider-trading investigations of Senators Dianne Feinstein, Kelly Loeffler, and James Inhofe; Richard Burr inquiry continues (NPR)

Richard Grenell declassifies slew of Russia probe files, as John Ratcliffe takes helm as DNI (Fox News)

U.S. ahead of schedule in cutting Afghanistan troop strength; just 8,600 remain (Reuters)

Salaries get chopped for many Americans who manage to keep their jobs (Bloomberg)

Reopening optimism fuels stock-market surge (Washington Examiner)

Memorial Day weekend shootings leave 10 dead in Chicago — the most since 2015 (AP)

Illinois Democrats bank on a congressional bailout; state budget relies on billions in federal assistance (The Washington Free Beacon)

Obfuscation: New York health website deletes Governor Andrew Cuomo's order linked to nursing-home fatalities (Fox News)

Birds of a feather flock together: WHO praises Communist China for "very consistent message" of "openness" in virus investigation (Washington Examiner)

China wants to keep COVID tracking system in place permanently, fold it into social-credit system (The Daily Caller)

Despite confiscation, New Zealand sees most gun crime in a decade (NRA-ILA)

Policy: Donald Trump is right to dump the Open Skies Treaty (The Daily Signal)

Policy: The space business is about to get really serious (American Enterprise Institute)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Thursday, May 28, 2020

Australia 'has BEATEN coronavirus': Top health official says a second wave of COVID-19 is unlikely as transmission rates plunge to nearly zero - with just 30 patients in hospital nationwide

The chance of a second wave of COVID-19 in Australia this year is unlikely, according to one of the country's top health officials, as transmission rates fall to nearly zero.

New South Wales chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant told state politicians the ban on international travel and the state's grasp of social distancing meant it was well placed to stem further outbreaks of the virus and prevent a second wave.

There is just one coronavirus patient in intensive care across the state - and only five nationwide as of Tuesday. A total of 30 COVID-19 patients remain in hospital across the country.

In the private briefing, Dr Chant conceded NSW's ability to prevent a second wave would rely on widespread adherence to social distancing rules.

It comes as the state looks to June 1 for the next stage of restriction easing - with beauty salons and nail bars set to re-open and regional travel permitted.

'The policy for how to deal with a second wave is that we'll evaluate it at the time,'  an MP close to the meeting told The Australian.

'[Dr Chant's] message was: It's very possible to contain all this ­because we don't have the inter­nationals coming in, and we have good social distancing and hygiene­ practices.'

There were only two new cases of COVID-19 in NSW recorded in the 24 hours to Monday.

There are 7,133 cases of the coronavirus nationally since the outbreak began, but just 478 of those are still active. 

Six million people have downloaded the government's coronavirus tracking app less than a month after its launch, helping authorities trace contacts of any diagnosed cases. 

It follows Premier Daniel Andrews announcing the new 'COVID normal' in Victoria ahead of the loosening of restrictions on June 1.

People in the state will kick off winter being able to enjoy meals with friends at home, attend weddings, swim at pools or even get tattoos, as long as there's no more than 20 people. 

The number will also mark the number of people allowed at weddings, while up to 50 people will be able to attend funerals.

'The rules that accompany that opening up will be with us for a long time,' Mr Andrews told reporters.

'This is a COVID normal, this is not a return to business a usual.'

Victoria's reopening will see 20 people allowed to visit libraries and other community facilities, entertainment and cultural venues, as well as beauty and personal care services.

The start of the coldest season will also include a lifeline for the tourism industry as overnight stays in hotels will be permitted.

Campgrounds will be open for those eager to pitch their tents, but not their communal facilities like kitchens or bathrooms.



Conservatives, save the economy by fighting liberal lies online

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages and the economic fallout of the widespread lockdowns continues to harm the livelihoods of millions of people, the November elections are rapidly approaching. In just six months, Republicans will attempt to retake the House of Representatives, retain their majority in the Senate, and ensure that President Trump serves an additional four years in the White House.

This uncertainty has greatly affected the political landscape. In recent months, left-wing groups such as MoveOn and Indivisible have utilized the grassroots playbook of the Tea Party movement following the election of President Barack Obama in 2008. In their attempt to rally their supporters, liberals absurdly claim the lives lost due to COVID-19 and the unprecedented economic suffering are a manifestation of conservative, free market policies.

Such statements are riddled with factual inaccuracies and outright falsehoods. However, they have successfully energized the Democratic base.

For instance, Democratic incumbents in the “dirty 30” congressional districts, districts that voted for Trump in 2016 and elected a Democrat to the House in 2018, have outraised their Republican challengers by a ratio of 6-to-1. Additionally, groups such as MoveOn have experienced a dramatic growth in funding and an expansion of their activist base.

At a time when more than one-third of adults are increasing their time on social media, conservatives must use the digital sphere to cut through leftist falsehoods. To combat the fabrications of liberal activists, it is imperative to communicate a message of liberty.

Free market grassroots activists are fighting against left-wing disinformation. They are as engaged as ever and will be critical to victory. Through recruiting thousands of new activists and expanding its online presence, FreedomWorks and allied free market groups within the Save Our Country Coalition are emphasizing the importance of individual liberty and free enterprise in solving this crisis. Economic conservatives should take note. The GOP will need to look outside its typical base and make the winning argument to anyone who values a healthy economy.

The underlying message in countering the liberal narrative must be that free enterprise, which has done more to advance human prosperity than any economic system in history, will allow the economy to come roaring back. It is not Trump or Republicans that have fomented financial collapse but Democrats, who maintain that an indefinite national shutdown is the only solution. To emerge from this crisis stronger than we entered it, we must unleash the free market and lift draconian restrictions on individual freedom.

It is no surprise that the pandemic has been politicized by shameless Democrats and left-wing groups. Now, supporters of small government must fight back. A compelling argument that reaches groups outside the typical GOP base will be key to securing a victory for the free market and therefore a strong economy this November.



Two Billionaires Demonstrate the Limits of Money in Elections

Two and a half weeks after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) slammed Michael Bloomberg for trying to "buy this election," the former New York City mayor left the presidential race, having spent $570 million of his own money to win 58 delegates—3 percent of the number needed to secure the Democratic nomination. Tom Steyer, the other billionaire in the race, did even worse, abandoning his campaign after spending more than $250 million and earning zero delegates.

Those spectacular failures should give pause to the politicians and activists who think money poses such a grave threat to democracy that the Constitution must be amended to authorize limits on campaign spending. Bloomberg and Steyer—who outspent former Vice President Joe Biden by factors of more than eight and nearly four, respectively—demonstrated that no amount of money can buy victory for candidates who fail to persuade voters.

Bloomberg's unprecedented ad blitz seemed to be effective at first, boosting his standing in national polls from around 3 percent in November to as high as 19 percent by early March. But when push came to shove, Democrats keen to replace President Donald Trump did not buy Bloomberg's argument that he was the man to do it.

The arrogance reflected by Bloomberg's strategy of skipping the early contests and debates, flooding the airwaves and internet with ads, and swooping in to rescue a party he had joined the year before launching his campaign probably helps explain why primary voters found him so unappealing. His disastrous performance during his first debate surely didn't help, and neither did his wooden demeanor or the generally uninspiring vibe of his TV spots, which one Democratic strategist described as "mediocre messaging at massive scale."

Steyer, a hedge fund manager who had previously spent many millions of his personal fortune to support losing Democratic candidates, saw almost no return on his investment in his own campaign. After polling at 0 percent last July, he climbed to 1 percent before dropping out in February.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that caps on campaign spending violate the First Amendment. Yet Democratic legislators are so obsessed with the supposedly corrupting impact of money in politics that they're ready to authorize such restrictions by fundamentally rewriting free speech law, as a proposed constitutional amendment—backed by every Democrat in the Senate and more than nine out of 10 Democrats in the House—would do.

Contrary to the fears underlying that illiberal initiative, voters are perfectly capable of rejecting even the most powerfully amplified messages. Just ask Bloomberg and Steyer.




And not a moment too soon: FBI director orders internal review of bureau's handling of Michael Flynn investigation (National Review)

Republican says Flynn judge may have "conflict of interest" after hiring personal attorney (Washington Examiner)

Trump announces that houses of worship are "essential," calls on governors to open them up (Fox News)

Trump threatens to move GOP convention over North Carolina's coronavirus restrictions (The Hill)

Dr. Anthony Fauci — previously a big advocate for lockdowns — now says extended stay-home orders could cause "irreparable damage" (Fox News)

Richard Grenell stepping down as ambassador to Germany following DNI stint (Fox News)

Mike Pompeo condemns China's Hong Kong law as "death knell" for freedoms (BBC)

U.S. threatens to impose sanctions on China over Hong Kong crackdown (Washington Examiner)

Thirty-five percent of patients are asymptomatic, CDC says (

U.S. plans massive coronavirus vaccine testing effort to meet year-end deadline (Reuters)

South America a new epicenter; Africa reaches 100,000 cases (Reuters)

Trump suspends travel from Brazil (CNBC)

Republicans sue to stop Governor Gavin Newsom from sending mail-in ballots to all California voters (Washington Examiner)

Federal judge rules Florida felons don't have to pay fines before registering to vote (Washington Examiner)

Mississippi church that defied coronavirus restrictions is burned to the ground (The New York Times)

Lockdowns prompt raft of lawsuits against states (USA Today)

These are the most illogical COVID restrictions still in place (The Daily Caller)

Most Americans say they would pay more for products not made in China (

Biden offshore drilling ban would kill 200,000 jobs, oil lobby says (Washington Examiner)

NASA astronauts go back to the future with capsule launch (AP)

Policy: U.S. Postal Service needs to get a grip on package pricing (Issues & Insights)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The CDC confirms remarkably low coronavirus death rate. Where is the media?

Daniel Horowitz

Most people are more likely to wind up six feet under because of almost anything else under the sun other than COVID-19.

The CDC just came out with a report that should be earth-shattering to the narrative of the political class, yet it will go into the thick pile of vital data and information about the virus that is not getting out to the public. For the first time, the CDC has attempted to offer a real estimate of the overall death rate for COVID-19, and under its most likely scenario, the number is 0.26%. Officials estimate a 0.4% fatality rate among those who are symptomatic and project a 35% rate of asymptomatic cases among those infected, which drops the overall infection fatality rate (IFR) to just 0.26% — almost exactly where Stanford researchers pegged it a month ago.

Until now, we have been ridiculed for thinking the death rate was that low, as opposed to the 3.4% estimate of the World Health Organization, which helped drive the panic and the lockdowns. Now the CDC is agreeing to the lower rate in plain ink.

Plus, ultimately we might find out that the IFR is even lower because numerous studies and hard counts of confined populations have shown a much higher percentage of asymptomatic cases. Simply adjusting for a 50% asymptomatic rate would drop their fatality rate to 0.2% – exactly the rate of fatality Dr. John Ionnidis of Stanford University projected.

More importantly, as I mentioned before, the overall death rate is meaningless because the numbers are so lopsided. Given that at least half of the deaths were in nursing homes, a back-of-the-envelope estimate would show that the infection fatality rate for non-nursing home residents would only be 0.1% or 1 in 1,000. And that includes people of all ages and all health statuses outside of nursing homes. Since nearly all of the deaths are those with comorbidities.

The CDC estimates the death rate from COVID-19 for those under 50 is 1 in 5,000 for those with symptoms, which would be 1 in 6,725 overall, but again, almost all those who die have specific comorbidities or underlying conditions. Those without them are more likely to die in a car accident. And schoolchildren, whose lives, mental health, and education we are destroying, are more likely to get struck by lightning.

To put this in perspective, one Twitter commentator juxtaposed the age-separated infection fatality rates in Spain to the average yearly probability of dying of anything for the same age groups, based on data from the Social Security Administration. He used Spain because we don’t have a detailed infection fatality rate estimate for each age group from any survey in the U.S. However, we know that Spain fared worse than almost every other country. This data is actually working with a top-line IFR of 1%, roughly four times what the CDC estimates for the U.S., so if anything, the corresponding numbers for the U.S. will be lower.

As you can see, even in Spain, the death rates from COVID-19 for younger people are very low and are well below the annual death rate for any age group in a given year. For children, despite their young age, they are 10-30 times more likely to die from other causes in any given year.

While obviously yearly death rates factor in myriad of causes of death and COVID-19 is just one virus, it still provides much-needed perspective to a public policy response that is completely divorced from the risk for all but the oldest and sickest people in the country.

Also, keep in mind, these numbers represent your chance of dying once you have already contracted the virus, aka the infection fatality rate. Once you couple the chance of contracting the virus in the first place together with the chance of dying from it, many younger people have a higher chance of dying from a lightning strike.

Four infectious disease doctors in Canada estimate that the individual rate of death from COVID-19 for people under 65 years of age is six per million people, or 0.0006 per cent – 1 in 166,666, which is “roughly equivalent to the risk of dying from a motor vehicle accident during the same time period.” These numbers are for Canada, which did have fewer deaths per capita than the U.S.; however, if you take New York City and its surrounding counties out of the equation, the two countries are pretty much the same. Also, remember, so much of the death is associated with the suicidal political decisions of certain states and countries to place COVID-19 patients in nursing homes. An astounding 62 percent of all COVID-19 deaths were in the six states confirmed to have done this, even though they only compose 18 percent of the national population.

We destroyed our entire country and suspended democracy all for a lie, and these people perpetrated the unscientific degree of panic. Will they ever admit the grave consequences of their error?



Coronavirus, Gun Violence, and Lame Leftist 'Logic'

In order to attempt to stop a pandemic that kills far less than half of one percent of those who contract it, including a statistically infinitesimal percentage of those under 65, most of the world conducted a massive, overreaching, draconian lockdown effort that threw millions into poverty, shuttered businesses for good, disrupted critical supply chains, demolished liberties, and left much of the global economy in ruins that will take years, if not decades to rebuild. To call this ongoing absurdity an overreach is to put it mildly, but overreach is the term that seemingly has defined everything we’ve done attempting to stop a virus that has terrified people far beyond what its capabilities would suggest.

As more and more data comes to light, it’s becoming increasingly clear that, had we decided to employ a more measured approach like that of Sweden, we would not only have flattened the curve and not overwhelmed hospitals, but we would also be much further along toward the ultimate goal of obtaining herd immunity from the virus. Yet instead, we chose to burn the proverbial house down to deal with an ant infestation. We sank the ship to kill the rats below deck. We nuked the desert to get rid of a few scorpions. We … well, you get the picture. Instead of taking steps to isolate and protect the vulnerable, we closed schools, shuttered businesses, and essentially locked healthy people in their houses for months.

We tried an approach that hasn’t been tried in the entire history of pandemics, and we failed miserably. “But but but, the curve was flattened and deaths were kept to a minimum,” you say. To which I would argue that the curve would have been flattened anyway with a more measured approach and, while we may have had a few more deaths, we would be well on our way to herd immunity with a life-sustaining economy not completely off the rails. Instead, now we’re talking about having to wear facemasks for years and dealing with a potential second wave that could make our overlords force us to repeat this whole lockdown nonsense again in the Fall.

Most lockdown critics blame both right and left for the initial shutdowns, and I certainly understand where they’re coming from (though I’d like to humbly point out that I’ve been on the ‘right’ side of history on this since the beginning). Much was unknown, and some thought the death rate could reach as high as five percent. Though it’s obvious that President Trump wanted to do the right thing from the start, he was likely told by his advisors, especially the medical ones, that he would have blood on his hands if he erred on the side of inaction here. Fair enough. Were any of us in his situation, maybe we would have done the same thing, even if we didn’t want to.

So yeah, both sides are at fault to some degree, but those on the left have clearly been the ones loathe to learn from the world’s mistakes. Exhibit A? How about blue-state governors all across the land holding on to their newfound godlike power like it’s the last “hot & ready” Krispy Kreme doughnut? Of course, it’s not like any of us are surprised by this. Sadly, such tendencies towards overreach when dealing with a problem is par for the course with leftists. Give them a hammer, and everything looks like a nail.

No, their almost pathological desire to stick with the notion that locking down an entire population is an effective, long-term strategy for dealing with coronavirus isn’t surprising at all when you think about it. After all, they’ve taken the same approach toward gun violence for years. Just ‘ban’ guns, they reason, and gun violence will magically disappear. Instead of a functional, freedom-oriented society where good people have the right and means of self-defense, leftists would impose draconian gun legislation on the law-abiding, leaving the criminals, who have no intention of following gun laws, the ability to prey on society at will.

We all know that schools have been among the most vulnerable places for gun violence, for a variety of horrible reasons. However, instead of locking them down and protecting them with good people with guns, like trained teachers, principals, and resource officers, leftists reason that it is somehow easier to make guns magically disappear from the entire country.

Follow their twisted logic to protecting the vulnerable, particularly those in nursing homes, during the coronavirus pandemic, and you’ll see the tragic irony. We knew right from the beginning that this virus affected the elderly and sick to a greater degree. However, instead of locking down nursing homes from the start, certain blue-state governors, most notably New York’s Andrew Cuomo, mandated that they not be allowed to refuse COVID patients. And of course, what literally everyone knew would happen is exactly what DID happen - thousands more died than otherwise would have. In other words, the governors of New York and Pennsylvania “protected” their citizens from coronavirus by locking down the healthy and sending sick people into the one place everyone knew should be protected.

It makes absolutely zero sense, just like their approach to guns. But when has leftist “logic” ever squared with reality?



Cutting More Red Tape Will Aid Recovery

President Donald Trump's biggest accomplishments, in our view, are two stellar Supreme Court nominations, major tax cuts across the board, and a commitment to deregulation. Of the latter, the Wall Street Journal editorial board remarks, "The Trump Administration's long parade of deregulation — on everything from Title IX, to net neutrality, to environmental-impact statements, to joint employers — is among its biggest achievements."

Throughout the COVID-19 shutdown, the Trump administration has worked to eliminate or waive regulations that hinder mitigation efforts. On Tuesday, the president made a significant move to continue this record. The Washington Times reports, "Mr. Trump signed an executive order, in his first Cabinet meeting since the crisis hit, that directs federal agencies to rapidly use all emergency and 'good cause' authorities to find red tape that can be rescinded or temporarily waived to promote job creation and economic growth. In addition to cutting regulations, the president's order instructs Cabinet agencies to 'consider exercising appropriate temporary enforcement discretion' for the good of the recovery."

Moreover, federal agencies should "determine which, if any," of the 600 deregulatory actions taken during the pandemic "would promote economic recovery if made permanent."

"Typically when our country has faced a crisis, Washington responds by grabbing more power," said Russ Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget. "President Trump understands that to get the economy moving, the power needs to be given back to the people and entrepreneurs. If a bureaucratic rule needs to be suspended during a time of crisis to help the American people, we should ask ourselves if it makes sense to keep at all."

Trump's rationale is surely influenced by his own career as a businessman. "I want you to go to town and do it right," he told members of his Cabinet. "It gives you tremendous power to cut regulation. We're fighting for the livelihoods of American workers, and we must continue to cut through every piece of red tape that stands in our way."

Many of the deregulation efforts are small in isolation. According to the Journal, they include: "Truck drivers hauling emergency supplies have more flexibility about hours on the road. Seniors on Medicare can consult doctors by iPhone. Colleges can ramp up distance learning without the usual red tape."

But regulations are also a sort of "death by a thousand paper cuts." Most regulations don't result directly in job losses, but the accumulation of them means business owners are busier obeying government fiat than they are serving customers, making widgets, or hiring new workers. Regarding the reopening, as long as businesses "have attempted in reasonable good faith" to meet guidelines of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), for example, the bureaucracy has been instructed to lay off. Small moves like that will also accumulate and make it easier for businesses to recover from the pandemic shutdown.

Trump concluded, "With millions of Americans forced out of work by the virus, it's more important than ever to remove burdens that destroy American jobs." Can we get an "amen"?



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Isolation and job losses are leading to higher number of suicide attempts   

The lockdown hit me at a time when I was having relationship difficulties  -- magnifying those difficulties.  I too could well have ended it at that time except for strong family support.  I am now at peace

Trauma doctors at a northern California medical center say the hospital they work at has experience more deaths from suicide than from the coronavirus.

The head of the trauma at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek near San Francisco believes the effects of the coronavirus are not just affecting physical health but mental health too.

Dr. Mike deBoisblanc believes that the lockdown restrictions need to end because of the impact they are having on mental health.

'Personally I think it's time,' said Dr. Mike deBoisblanc to ABC7. 'I think, originally, this shelter-in-place order was put in place to flatten the curve and to make sure hospitals have the resources to take care of COVID patients.

'We have the current resources to do that and our other community health is suffering.'

'We've never seen numbers like this, in such a short period of time,' he said. 'I mean we've seen a year's worth of suicide attempts in the last four weeks.'

DeBoisblanc's colleague, Kacey Hansen, who has worked as a trauma nurse for 33 years also shares his concern.  'What I have seen recently, I have never seen before. I have never seen so much intentional injury.'

'They intend to die,' Hansen said. 'Sometimes, people will make what we call a "gesture". It's a cry for help. We're just seeing something a little different than that right now. It's upsetting.'

Doctors Hansen and deBoisblanc say they are seeing mainly young adults die by suicide brought on by the stress of isolation and job losses as a result of the quarantine.

California's shelter-in-place policy is set to last until midnight on May 31.

Staff are encouraging those who are feeling depressed to call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-TALK.     

'Generally speaking the vast majority of people say they feel better after they call and get the resources they need,' Executive Director Tom Tamura said.

'With help comes hope. I think that there are people and organizations out there that you can contact that can get you the information you need and resources you need to get you through this tough time.'

'I think people have found themselves disconnected from the normal supportive networks that they have, churches and schools and book clubs, you name it,' Tamura said. 'And that, coupled with the closure of some counseling services, people were maybe in a little bit of shock. They were trying to weather the storm a bit but as that isolation has grown people have come to realize this isn't a sprint it is marathon.'



Lockdown was a waste of time and could kill more than it saved, claims Nobel laureate scientist at Stanford University

The coronavirus lockdown could have caused more deaths than it saved, a Nobel laureate scientist has claimed.

Michael Levitt, a Stanford University professor who correctly predicted the initial scale of the pandemic, suggested the decision to keep people indoors was motivated by 'panic' rather than the best science.

Professor Levitt also said the modelling that caused the government to bring in the lockdown - carried out by Professor Neil Ferguson - over-estimated the death toll by '10 or 12 times'.

His claims echo those in a JP Morgan report that said lockdowns failed to alter the course of the pandemic but have instead 'destroyed millions of livelihoods'.

Author Marko Kolanovic, a trained physicist and a strategist for JP Morgan, said governments had been spooked by 'flawed scientific papers' into imposing lockdowns which were 'inefficient or late' and had little effect.

He said falling infection rates since lockdowns were lifted suggest that the virus 'likely has its own dynamics' which are 'unrelated to often inconsistent lockdown measures'.

Denmark is among the countries which has seen its R rate continue to fall after schools and shopping malls re-opened, while Germany's rate has mostly remained below 1.0 after the lockdown was eased.

Prof Levitt told The Telegraph: 'I think lockdown saved no lives. I think it may have cost lives. It will have saved a few road accident lives, things like that, but social damage – domestic abuse, divorces, alcoholism – has been extreme.

'And then you have those who were not treated for other conditions.'

Professor Levitt, who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2013 for the 'development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems', has said for two months that most experts predictions about coronavirus are wrong.

He also believes that the Government should encourage Britons to wear masks and find other ways to continue working while socially distancing instead.   

Prof Ferguson's modelling, on the other hand, estimated up to 500,000 deaths would occur without social distancing measures.

Prof Levitt added: 'For reasons that were not clear to me, I think the leaders panicked and the people panicked. There was a huge lack of discussion.'

The 73-year-old Nobel prize winner in not an epidemiologist, but he assessed the outbreak in China at the start of the crisis and made alternative predictions based on his own calculations.

Although Professor Levitt does acknowledge that lockdowns can be effective, he describes them as 'medieval' and thinks epidemiologists exaggerate their claims so that people are more likely to listen to them.

His comments come as other scientists working in the same field also reported that they couldn't verify Prof Ferguson's work.

Competing scientists' research - whose models produced vastly different results - were largely ignored by government advisers.

David Richards, co-founder of British data technology company WANdisco said Ferguson's model was a 'buggy mess that looks more like a bowl of angel hair pasta than a finely tuned piece of programming'.

Mr Richards said: 'In our commercial reality we would fire anyone for developing code like this and any business that relied on it to produce software for sale would likely go bust.'

University of Edinburgh researchers also reportedly found bugs when running the model, getting different results when they used different machines, or even the same machines in some cases.

The team reported a 'bug' in the system which was fixed - but specialists in the field remain staggered at how inadequate it is.

Four experienced modellers previously noted the code is 'deeply riddled with bugs', has 'huge blocks of code – bad practice' and is 'quite possibly the worst production code I have ever seen'.

After the model's grim prediction, the University of Edinburgh's Professor Michael Thursfield criticised Professor Ferguson's record as 'patchy'.



How Florida's COVID Response, Skewered By the Media, Has Been Succeeding

We've been comparing and contrasting the policies, results and media coverage of New York vs. Florida for some time now, for fairly obvious reasons. New York has been the nation's worst Coronavirus hotspot for months, while Florida received a disproportionate share of negative media coverage for its handling of the virus, even though it seems to be working quite well. As of this writing, the Empire State has suffered approximately 23,000 COVID deaths, while Florida's death toll is approximately one-tenth of that number, despite the latter state having two million more residents than the former. New York's (reportedly undercounted) nursing home death count is nearly triple the entire state of Florida's.

Why, then, has Florida Governor Ron DeSantis been targeted with such withering and accusatory press coverage, while New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been afforded heroic treatment -- and is only recently starting to face some heat for the objectively bad decisions and tragic results over which he's presided? I'll remind you of this refreshingly candid Politico analysis:

Florida just doesn’t look nearly as bad as the national news media and sky-is-falling critics have been predicting for about two months now. But then, the national news media is mostly based in New York and loves to love its Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, about as much as it loves to hate on Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. First, let’s just come out and say it: DeSantis looks more right than those who criticized the Sunshine State’s coronavirus response...Cuomo also has something else DeSantis doesn’t: a press that defers to him, one that preferred to cover “Florida Morons” at the beach (where it’s relatively hard to get infected) over New Yorkers riding cramped subway cars (where it’s easy to get infected). In fact, people can still ride the subways for most hours of the day in New York, but Miami Beach’s sands remain closed. Maybe things would be different if DeSantis had a brother who worked in cable news and interviewed him for a “sweet moment” in primetime.

It's been partisan and ideological media bias compounded by parochial media bias, resulting in embarrassingly bad and unfair coverage. It's had an impact, too, with DeSantis' sky-high approval rating falling to diminished (yet still pretty robust) levels, and Cuomo soaring to dramatic heights. Perhaps those numbers will shift again, as realities and results become clearer to voters, but journalists spent weeks forging narratives that now appear to have cut in exactly the wrong directions, according to actual outcomes. In a valuable National Review piece, Rich Lowry interviewed DeSantis and key members of his team, who revealed how the Sunshine State's leadership -- contrary to current media mythology -- leveraged careful data analysis and laudable foresight into what is shaping up as a profound, under-heralded success story:

The conventional wisdom has begun to change about Florida, as the disaster so widely predicted hasn’t materialized. It’s worth delving into the state’s response — as described by DeSantis and a couple of members of his team — because it is the opposite of the media narrative of a Trump-friendly governor disregarding the facts to pursue a reckless agenda. DeSantis and his team have followed the science closely from the beginning, which is why they forged a nuanced approach, but one that focused like a laser on the most vulnerable population, those in nursing homes. An irony of the national coverage of the coronavirus crisis is that at the same time DeSantis was being made into a villain, New York governor Andrew Cuomo was being elevated as a hero, even though the DeSantis approach to nursing homes was obviously superior to that of Cuomo. Florida went out of its way to get COVID-19-positive people out of nursing homes, while New York went out of its way to get them in, a policy now widely acknowledged to have been a debacle.

The media didn’t exactly have their eyes on the ball. “The day that the media had their first big freakout about Florida was March 15th,” DeSantis recalls, “which was, there were people on Clearwater Beach, and it was this big deal. That same day is when we signed the executive order to, one, ban visitation in the nursing homes, and two, ban the reintroduction of a COVID-positive patient back into a nursing home.” DeSantis is bemused by the obsession with Florida’s beaches. When they opened in Jacksonville, it was a big national story, usually relayed with a dire tone. “Jacksonville has almost no COVID activity outside of a nursing-home context,” he says. “Their hospitalizations are down, ICU down since the beaches opened a month ago. And yet, nobody talks about it. It’s just like, ‘Okay, we just move on to the next target.’”

The story goes on to describe how DeSantis -- often portrayed as a Trumpy yokel, who holds degrees from Harvard and Yale -- closely examined what was happening in other countries to help shape his own response, which was frustrated by a dearth of strong precedent and best practices in America. The governor and his administration quickly developed a healthy skepticism of dire models, relying instead on on-the-ground data. And it turned out that Florida's emergency infrastructure lent itself to very strong data-gathering, on which decisions were based:

Florida was better able to do that than many states because of its routine experience dealing with natural disasters. “Many states simply did not have the data infrastructure that Florida has,” says Mary Mayhew, secretary of Florida’s Agency for Healthcare Administration. “We have an emergency status system that gets stood up, as I mentioned, in the case of a hurricane. Hospitals and nursing homes and other long-term-care providers are required to submit data on a daily basis, twice-daily basis, regarding their bed availability.” The Florida Department of Health produces a report that DeSantis sees every morning: new cases, number of tests, positivity rates, etc. He also gets a rundown of the people who have gone into hospitals and of ICU usage. He can follow the key indicators down to the county level. This allows granular visibility into what’s happening. He cites the example of rural Hamilton County. It had 67 cases the other day. DeSantis was able to call the surgeon general of the state to find out what was going on, and learn it was an outbreak in a prison rather than a wider community spread.

The data and state leaders' experiences led them to almost immediately prioritize protection and mitigation efforts at nursing homes, which retrospectively seems both patently obvious and like a stroke of life-saving genius. Unlike New York, which allowed COVID-positive employees to continue working at such facilities, and required COVID-positive patients to be readmitted from hospitals, Florida did the opposite. Early on, the state government imposed restrictions and screenings for those wishing to enter nursing homes, rushed large supplies of PPE to these facilities as a priority, and explicitly forbade residents diagnosed with the virus from entering the facilities. A top Florida public health official said they established a "hard line" on this issue, working closely with hospitals to explain why 'normal' procedures would not be acceptable during the coronavirus crisis:

Mary Mayhew had daily calls with the hospitals, with people involved in discharge planning on the line. “Every day on these calls,” she says, “I would hear the same comments and questions around, we need to get these individuals returned back to the nursing home. We drew a hard line early on. I said repeatedly to the hospital, to the CEOs, to the discharge planners, to the chief medical officers, ‘I understand that for 20 years it’s been ingrained, especially through Medicare reimbursement policy, to get individuals in and out. That is not our focus today. I’m not going to send anyone back to a nursing home who has the slightest risk of being positive.’”... Early on, when tests had a slow turnaround, there was a lot of pressure to give way, but Mayhew was unmovable on the question...As the health officials put it, succinctly, “We wanted people out, not in.”

When the state was seeing infections at nursing homes presumably caused by staff, DeSantis deployed what he calls “an expeditionary testing force,” 50 National Guard teams of four guardsmen together with Department of Health personnel that tested staff and residents. Most facilities haven’t had confirmed cases. “But the ones that have,” he says, “the majority of them have had between one and five infections. So the infections are identified, but then, you’re isolating either the individual or the small cluster before you have an outbreak.” ...The state has also started a sentinel surveillance program for long-term-care facilities, routinely taking representative samples to monitor for flare-ups. Finally, it has established several COVID-19-only nursing homes, with a couple more in the pipeline. The idea, again, is to get COVID-19-positive residents out of the regular nursing homes to the maximum extent possible.

The article goes on to explain how DeSantis was an early adopter of region-by-region policies, using county-level data and consulting with local officials to drive decisions, as opposed to imposing knee-jerk "one size fits all" mandates across what the governor describes as a "big, diverse" state. Rather than assailing Florida for open beaches in barely-impacted counties and lecturing DeSantis about science, the national media should have been begging him for pointers and tips to share with other governors, especially in the Northeast. We should remain vigilant, of course, and it's possible that Florida's good fortune will take a tailspin based on premature re-openings. There are data points to keep an eye on, even as we work to keep such numbers in proper context and proportion. But things are looking relatively steady and encouraging so far, and if that trend continues, Lowry is right to ask, "where does Ron DeSantis go to get his apology?" Another governor who may end up in that camp is Georgia's. Brian Kemp's controversial reopening strategy has been underway for weeks now:

To repeat, it's too early for anyone to be taking definitive victory laps; uncertainties and risks remain. Officials need to be nimble and flexible based on changing conditions or data. But the hyperbolic critiques and predictions, almost exclusively directed at Republican leaders, are not panning out thus far. That's good news. Let's hope it continues.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Monday, May 25, 2020

The key tool to a safe opening is not social distancing

The Hong Kong system

Around the world, covid-19 lockdowns are ending — in some cases before the virus has been defeated, meaning that the risk of a second wave of infection is high.

But it is not inevitable. Many places, including South Korea and Hong Kong, have avoided lockdowns entirely and are now returning to something like normal conditions. Even when Hong Kong, where I live, got a second wave, we never went into lockdown, and now new cases are at nearly zero.

The key tool in these places’ safe reopening is not social distancing. Rather, it is contact isolation.

This policy, employed to various degrees in China, Israel and elsewhere, is a modern rendition of a strategy dating back to biblical and medieval approaches to leprosy and plague. Contact isolation is more effective than lockdowns and also less economically disruptive.

This is how it works: Most adults are permitted to return to work and routine activities, though masks, for now, should continue to be required. Anytime someone tests positive — regardless of symptoms — their close contacts are identified. The person with the positive test result and all of those contacts are then required to move temporarily into a government-run, hygienic, isolated environment — probably in a hotel or similar setting — until they can be ruled out as infectious. This process may involve testing if tests are available, or spending two or three weeks in isolation if the tests are not. For anyone who tests positive, the tracing program would extend to their close contacts, and so on.

In Hong Kong, many people get out of isolation in just a few days, thanks to the availability of tests. Daily tests per capita in America today are higher than in most countries with contact isolation programs, so it is likely that a similar pattern would occur among Americans.

This strategy is highly effective at breaking the chain of transmission, not least because contacts are presumptively isolated. Thus, contact isolation does not depend on mass testing but, rather, reduces the load on the testing infrastructure.

This system also encourages compliance because the centralized facilities would provide isolated individuals with all their basic needs (plus daily supervision so they would get treatment if they become sick). Food and medication can be delivered, WiFi would be free, and governments should provide financial compensation for lost work time. And, since covid-19 is much less dangerous to kids, families could choose for their children to be quarantined with them or separately, whichever they prefer. All of this would require legislation by state governments, but none of it is infeasible.

Alas, contact isolation sounds scary to many people. It conjures images of internment, stigmatization or family separation. But the truth is that the curtailment of our liberties would be minuscule compared with the society-wide lockdowns Americans have been enduring.

Contact isolation should be mandatory, but individuals who resist should simply be ticketed an amount sufficient to motivate compliance — not hauled off at gunpoint! Failure to pay tickets would trigger the kind of legal procedures we have for serious traffic violations. Some people would refuse, but the threat of fines and the promise of compensatory wages would work for most.

Notably, contact isolation does not require near-total compliance to be effective. Israel has pushed the spread of covid-19 to low levels with very modest amounts of centralized quarantining (just three main sites), alongside a stringent program for tracking carriers.

It’s hard to estimate how much isolation would be enough, but some basic math may be illustrative. Before social distancing measures, a person infected by covid-19 in America could be expected to infect an average of 1.5 to 2 other people. But that’s just an average: A “superspreader” might infect 100 other people, while many infected people might not infect anyone else, so tracking data indicates that more than half of coronavirus transmission is driven by fewer than half of infectious people. Even if this skew is quite moderate, average new infections per case fall to 0.7 to 1 (the level at which the disease will gradually vanish on its own, and the current level in most states) by isolating just 20 to 40 percent of infectious people.

With a few other measures, such as mask requirements — and given the fact that as summer begins, schools definitely won’t reopen soon — I estimate that contact isolation could enable the near-total reopening of businesses and moderate-size assemblies within six weeks. The better the isolation program, the sooner, and the fewer other measures will be needed.

How to make all this happen? Of course, federal and state governments would have to appropriate the necessary funds. Further, state and local authorities would need a manual for how to conduct contact isolation operations. That could be produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which already operates 20 centralized quarantine facilities.

Any big new initiative like the one proposed here will likely encounter a lot of skepticism. Policymakers could overcome that by stressing how narrowly targeted and temporary these measures are — and how effective they can be. Contact isolation is a pathway to social reopening. We can be safe together again.




Citing Russian strongman Vladimir Putin's recurrent infractions, "The United States announced its intention on Thursday to withdraw from the 35-nation Open Skies treaty allowing unarmed surveillance flights over member countries, the Trump administration's latest move to pull the country out of a major global treaty," Reuters reveals. The report adds, "Senior officials said the pullout will formally take place in six months, based on the treaty's withdrawal terms." This is hardly what we would describe as going "soft" on Russia.

Curious timing: Trump to honor coronavirus victims by flying flags at half-staff ... over Memorial Day weekend (Washington Examiner)

Strong, solid pick: Senate confirms John Ratcliffe as next director of national intelligence (Fox News)

"We're not going to close the country; we're going to put out the fires": Trump says America won't shut down afresh over second COVID-19 wave (The Hill)

U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia orders Michael Flynn judge to explain his roguishness (Politico)

Twenty-seven GOP senators ask Attorney General William Barr to investigate Planned Parenthood getting PPP funds (Fox News)

Trump administration approves arms sale to Taiwan — China denounces move (The Daily Caller)

FBI says Texas naval base shooting is "terrorism-related" (AP)

The man who took video of the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery is arrested on felony murder charge (USA Today)

Phased reopenings in California and Minnesota discriminate against religious services (The Daily Signal)

Peloton is problematic again, and this time the problem is "racism" (Hot Air)

2020 Atlantic hurricane season may be "extremely active," NOAA says (Fox News)

China to impose sweeping national-security law in Hong Kong, bypassing city's no-longer-autonomous legislature (The Washington Post)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Sunday, May 24, 2020

Many US states have seen LOWER infection rates after ending lockdowns that are are now destroying millions of livelihoods

Coronavirus lockdowns have 'destroyed millions of livelihoods' but failed to alter the course of the pandemic -- given many US states have seen lower infection rates after easing restrictions, a JP Morgan study has claimed.

The statistical analysis has raised questions about the effectiveness of the lockdowns put in place across much of the United States two months ago to stop the spread of COVID-19.

It suggests that the lockdown measures have not only resulted in economic devastation but could have also resulted in more COVID-19 deaths.

The strict stay-at-home measures put in place by the governors of most states in mid-March has so far seen nearly 39 million American lose their jobs and forced businesses to close.

There are now more than 1.6 million infections in the US and over 95,000 deaths.

'Unlike rigorous testing of potential new drugs, lockdowns were administered with little consideration that they might not only cause economic devastation but potentially more deaths than COVID-19 itself,' author Marko Kolanovic, a trained physicist and a strategist for JP Morgan, said. 

The report also includes a chart showing that 'the vast majority of countries had decreased infection rates' after lockdowns were lifted.

The JP Morgan report says that restarting the US economy may not lead to a second surge in infections that health experts have feared given the falling infections rates seen since lockdown measures were lifted in parts of the country.

Infection rates have continued to decline even once a lag period for new infections to become visible is factored in, according to the report. 

The R rate is the average number of people who will become infected by one person with the virus. Researchers and health experts have said a rate below 1.0 is a key indicator that the spread of the virus has been maintained.

Reproduction rate data from on Friday showed that all but two states had lowered the rate of infection.

According to that data, Minnesota's R rate was 1.01 and North Dakota's was at 1.02. 

The report also includes a chart showing that 'the vast majority of countries had decreased infection rates' after lockdowns were lifted. The chart, however, doesn't specify which country is which.

All 50 states have at least partially reopened this week by relaxing restrictions on businesses and social distancing in varying degrees across the country.

Kolanovic said governments had been spooked by 'flawed scientific papers' into imposing lockdowns that were 'inefficient or late' and had little effect.

'While we often hear that lockdowns are driven by scientific models, and that there is an exact relationship between the level of economic activity and the spread of [the] virus - this is not supported by the data,' the report says.

'Indeed, virtually everywhere infection rates have declined after re-opening even after allowing for an appropriate measurement lag.

'This means that the pandemic and COVID-19 likely have (their) own dynamics unrelated to often inconsistent lockdown measures that were being implemented.'

Those dynamics may be influenced by increased hand-washing and even weather patterns but seemingly not by full-scale lockdowns, the report suggests. 

'The fact that re-opening did not change the course of the pandemic is consistent with studies showing that initiation of full lockdowns did not alter the course of the pandemic either,' it says. 

The JP Morgan analysis linked the decision to impose lockdowns to 'flawed scientific papers' predicting millions of deaths in the West. 

'This on its own was odd, given that in China there were only several thousand deaths, and the mortality rate outside of Wuhan was very low,' the report says.

'In the absence of conclusive data, these lockdowns were justified initially. Nonetheless, many of these efforts were inefficient or late.' 

Kolanovic says that lockdowns had remained in place even as 'our knowledge of the virus and lack of effectiveness of total lockdowns evolved'.

'Despite the conditions for re-opening being mostly met across the US, it is not yet happening in the largest economic regions for example California and New York,' he said.

'While our knowledge of the virus and lack of effectiveness of total lockdowns evolved, lockdowns remained in place and focus shifted to contact tracing, contemplating second wave of outbreaks and ideas about designing better education, political and economic systems.

'At the same time, millions of livelihoods were being destroyed by these lockdowns.'

The US and other countries in lockdown are having to blow huge holes in their budgets to counter the economic standstill that is forcing millions of people into unemployment. 

The report cites 'worrying populism' as an obstacle to re-opening the economy, for example in the US where senators passed an anti-China measure this week.   

It warns that economic activity in the US is 'now largely following partisan lines' as Republican and Democratic governors adopt different strategies for their states.

As well as casting doubt on the wisdom of imposing lockdowns in the first place, the report suggests that economies could now be re-opened more quickly.

In other parts of the world, Denmark is among the countries that has started re-opening its economy without seeing a new surge in virus cases. 

Zoos, museums and cinemas have re-opened early in Denmark with many children now back at school after scientists said the R rate had continued to fall. 

Germany has also been confident enough to scale back the lockdown after the R rate mostly stayed below 1.0 following an initial lifting of restrictions.

However, chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly urged caution and warned that a second wave of virus cases could leave hospitals overwhelmed.

The UK government has similarly warned that some restrictions could be re-imposed if there is a 'sudden and concerning' rise in new cases.

Sweden has never imposed a lockdown, and its per-capita death rate is better than Britain's - although worse than that of its Scandinavian neighbours. 



Across the Wide, Growing American Divide
Red- and blue-state America was already divided before the coronavirus epidemic hit. Globalization had enriched the East Coast and West Coast corridors but hollowed out much in between.

The traditional values of small towns and rural counties were increasingly at odds with postmodern lifestyles in the cities.

There were, of course, traditionalists in blue states. And lots of progressives live in red states. But people increasingly self-segregate to where they feel at home and where politics, jobs and culture reflect their tastes.

The ensuing left/right, liberal/conservative, Democrat/Republican divide not only intensified in the 21st century, it also took on a dangerous geographical separatism.

The coasts vs. the interior reflects two Americas — often in a manner similar to the old Mason-Dixon line that geographically split the U.S. for roughly a century.

Liberals scoff at the deplorables and irredeemables for embracing an ossified, unchanging 18th-century Constitution. The red-staters supposedly cling to their weird, dangerous habits such as owning guns and opposing abortion, while adhering to paleolithic ideas of small government, secure borders and don’t-tread-on-me individualism.

Blue-staters are confident that progressive citizens of the world like themselves are where the global action, money and future lie. And who could doubt the success of Silicon Valley’s wealthy tech companies, Wall Street’s investment giants or internationally respected universities such as Harvard, MIT, Caltech and Stanford?

Progressives believe the story of America has most often been one of discrimination, original sin and a need for constant repentance and reparations for a flawed past.

Conservatives feel just the opposite — that one does not have to perfect to be good, and that America is far better than anywhere else.

Red-staters contend that many blue states are broke and need bailouts to ensure that their generous pensions and entitlements don’t wither away into insolvency.

Cities are often seen by those in less densely populated areas as dirty, full of homeless people, dangerous and ungovernable.

Red-staters also see failed statist ideas the world over. For them, China, the European Union and much of Africa and Latin America are proof that democratic socialism is neither fair nor compassionate.

Conservatives welcome in immigrants, but only if they come legally, assimilate to U.S. values and arrive in manageable numbers to be integrated.

When the virus hit, these divides intensified.

Blue-state governors wanted long lockdowns, red-state governors not so much.

Elite professionals, state employees and the wealthy residents of the coasts feel they can easily ride out a bad recession. They believe that even a miniscule chance of dying from the virus still makes it too risky to go out.

Yet in red states, there are many self-employed people and small-business owners who are always at risk on the margins. They believe they have great odds to beat the virus but not to beat a more deadly depression.

The 2020 election is the unspoken force multiplier of the divide. Blue-state politicians believe that if the lockdown continues, the country won’t recover before November. Donald Trump will then be blamed for the downturn. They hope for a replay of the 1932 election, with Trump as Depression-era Herbert Hoover vs. a progressive challenger with big promises of more programs and larger government.

Progressives also want more connectivity with the world abroad to beat the virus. They rely on elite researchers, statisticians and epidemiologists to chart and predict the course of the epidemic.

Conservatives are convinced that entrepreneurs and individuals will better save us. Most elites, they believe, were wrong in their modeling, their predictions and their advice about the contagion. Many conservatives think that the best and brightest had little practical experience, less common sense and did not live in the real world.

Red-staters look at the lies of the Chinese, the enabling deceptions of the World Health Organization and the initial failures of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They conclude that transnational organizations are sometimes incompetent and corrupt, and that even our own bureaucracies are too unimaginative, sluggish, haughty and territorial.

Is there any agreement between red-state and blue-state America?


Red-staters are not flocking to blue-state urban corridors, where the virus hit hardest. They are happy to live in less crowded places, rely on their own cars, have detached homes and be free of government edicts that often make little sense other than to showcase the dictatorial powers of petty bureaucrats and local officials.

Even blue-staters are beginning to see their mass transit, high-rise living and clogged streets more as incubators of disease than as the circulatory system of an exciting, high-end life.

Perhaps in this time of plague, Americans can at least agree that the romance of Arcadia is suddenly preferable to the allure of big-city lights.




Barack Obama's Treasury Department spied on Trump associates (Power Line)

Senators "dramatically expanding" probe into Obama-era scandal, think surveillance may have started "even earlier" than 2016 (The Daily Wire)

Michael Flynn attorney files emergency appeal to shut down Judge Sullivan's orders and boot him from case (Fox News)

Deregulator-in-chief: Trump signs broad order to speed deregulation and relax red tape for economic recovery (The Washington Times)

Joe Biden's pledge to dump Keystone XL pipeline would kill thousands of jobs and prevent millions in local tax revenue (The Washington Free Beacon)

Federal judge rules that all Texans must have access to absentee ballots (Washington Examiner)

Georgia apologizes over "processing error" after accusations officials were manipulating coronavirus case counts (Fox News)

"There is no pandemic exception to the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights": DOJ warns California governor over discriminatory church closings (Reuters)

Planned Parenthood affiliates improperly applied for and received $80 million in coronavirus stimulus funds (Fox News)

Wearing a face mask can reduce coronavirus transmission by up to 75%, study says (Fox News)

Anti-China sentiment is on the rise — 31% says the ChiComs are enemies, up 11% since January (Politico)

For the fifth consecutive year, U.S. birth rates decline, now at lowest level in 35 years (Today)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement